Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Best Pizza in Sri Lanka

One of the first restaurants I visited when I arrived in the Southern Sri Lanka some four years back is the “Spaghetti & Co”. It happened when we treated a Chinese visitor to a dinner and our Japanese manager brought us to the place. I can vividly remember his first words describing the place as “the best pizza house in Sri Lanka”. I initially laughed off his declaration and considered it as a bit of exaggeration. But when I tasted the home-made pizza in the said restaurant I thought there might be truth to it. Other restaurants here (at least the ones we have tried) serving pizzas are short of even equalizing the pizza they serve at “Spaghetti & Co”. Of course there are “Pizza Hut” and “Domino Pizza” outlets in the capital city but they are in a different category.

Since that day on, we regularly return to the restaurant for their pizzas and pasta. Even our company parties are sometimes held there so that all expatriate staff can fully enjoy their specialties. This month alone, our group has dined there for at least 3 times that I decided to make a post of the restaurant and their amazing pizzas. I will do a separate post on their equally good pasta some other time.

“Spaghetti and Co” is located in the land side of the famous Hikkaduwa Beach Resort area which I have posted earlier. It is said to be owned by an Italian couple who chose to live in the island. We were told by the waitress that the husband is the one actually preparing all the pizza and pasta dishes. Just from the looks, one can easily identify that the foods are really prepared the Italian way. Unlike the typical Filipino style pizza, the crust is thin and the toppings are minimal.

Frequent visitors of the beach are sure to have knowledge of the restaurant since it became the favorite dining place of most tourists of Hikkaduwa. It opens at six every night and is always full during peak seasons. The place is cozy, comfy and set inside a relaxing garden. Eating delicious pizzas in such a pleasant place is really a pleasure after a tiring day in the beach or in our case, from the office.

To give you an idea of the type of pizzas they serve, let me delight you once again to a photo tour of their sumptuous creations. Here are just some of the many entrees which we have tried and tasted. Drool and enjoy. :)

New Millennium – made from fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, streaky bacon, mushroom, egg, sausage, onion and green pepper

Hikkaduwa – made from fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, shark meat, tuna meat, calamari, onion and oregano

Mare & Monti – made from fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, salami, mushroom, calamari and prawn

Gamberetti – made from fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, prawn, garlic and olive oil

Calzone – made from fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, ham, mushroom and egg

Calzone Monti - made from fresh tomato, mozzarella cheese, ham, salami, mushroom, egg and eggplant

All of the above pizzas are a knock out. You can add some drops of olive oil and hot sauce and a dash of ground pepper and chili pepper flakes if you like. Gamberetti, Mare & Monti and New Millennium are my personal favorite. Really mouth-watering. Italian pizzas at its best. I have re-created the Gamberetti several times in our kitchen and will do a post next time. c“,)

When we are full and extremely satisfied (we should be, after that quite heavy meal), we can just enjoy the romantic setting of the surroundings……….while slowly sipping our drinks……… feeling the cool sea breeze as it soothe our faces………listening to the calming sounds created by birds and insects……… we plan our next return.

After all, with superb pizzas, the fun never ceases. :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guyabano Shake (Soursop Smoothies)

I recently bought two beautiful “guyabano” (soursop) from a backyard fruit grower in our area of residence. The fruits are so large that when they ripe at the same time, our group composed of 7 members could hardly consume all the delicate flesh. Not wanting to waste any portion of the rich creamy pulp of the wonderful produce considered by many as “miraculous fruits” due to its numerous healing properties and a reported potential cure for cancer cells, I thought making a “guyabano” shake is the next best thing to do.

The “guyabano” (soursop) or the fruit from the graviola tree belongs to the family of Annonaceae and identified as a relative of “atis” (sweet sop or sugar apple). The heart shaped to sometimes oblong fruit has a dark green, leathery and spike-like skin that measures from 8 to 12 inches long and can weigh up to 2.5 kilos. When ripe, its fruit is colored light yellow and soft. The tree is relatively small. It usually grows from 8 to less than 20 feet high and is sensitive to very cold temperatures. It requires a lot of water, warmth and humidity and is usually grown in the tropics.

A native of tropical America, “guyabano” was introduced into the Philippines at an early date and is now cultivated in all parts of the Archipelago. The plant grows in any kind of soil, but a fairly deep, friable soil of volcanic origin is conducive to growth and fruiting. It thrives very well from sea level up to 500 meters above sea level. In limited extent, it is cultivated commercially in Central & South America, West Africa, South Florida and of course Asia.

“Guyabano” is one of the healthiest fruits known to man. The flesh of the fruit consist of a white edible pulp that is high in carbohydrates (particularly fructose) and contains considerable amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, potassium and dietary fiber. It is low in cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium.

Aside from being a good health food, “guyabano” also taste delicious. While it is commonly eaten raw, its fruit is also processed into candies, tarts, shakes (smoothies), ice-cream, sherbets and other beverages. An assortment of punch and cocktail drinks can be made by mixing the nectar with wine rum or cola drinks or buko (fresh coconut) juice and ice.

So for the excess flesh of my huge “guyabano”, we will make a smooth and luscious shake drinks. For a single blending good for about 3 tall glasses, we will need about 1 ½ cup “guyabano” flesh, pelled and seed removed, ¼ cup skim milk, ¼ cup honey, 1 cup ice cube and 1 cup cold water.

The process is pretty simple. You just have to put everything into the blender and pulse it a couple of times until a smoth, rich and creamy consistency is attained.

Pour the shakes (smoothies) into tall glasses and serve. It goes well with your favorite snack or even on its own as a truly refreshing drinks.

“Guyabano” shake, though it’s quite getting popular over the years, is still underrated. For me, it is so good that it deserves a lot more attention and praise than what it is currently getting. c“,)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Office Meals Can Be Good

Being assigned in our Colombo City (Sri Lanka) office even for just a short period somehow excites my palate. Not just because of the many restaurants that I could visit for a rendezvous with the different varieties of foods but for the meals that are being served in the office. You see, in our satellite office, Japanese and Filipino expatriates eat together during lunch and dinner over meals prepared by local cooks. The theme is, of course, Japanese cuisine which we Filipinos have embraced and learned to love over time even back in our homeland Philippines.

The preparation, I should say is quite good. I can see how everyone enjoys the meals composed mainly of either meat or fish entrée for the main dish and vegetables and pasta or both for side dishes. At times noodles are also served which are equally delicious and appetizing. Regularly accompanied with stimulating “miso” soup or some other oriental soup, a bowl of exquisite Japanese steamed rice and fresh fruits for dessert, office meals can be surprisingly good.

I will not be describing each meal I had anymore. I thought it would be better if you will try to figure out the composition by yourself through the photographs. Not a single meal is repeated within a week, but there were times that the work load is just too much making us very hungry. And yes, during those times we immediately devour the food and totally forget taking photos resulting to only having 7 images. :-) Enjoy the tour though.

Meal 1

Meal 2

Meal 3

Meal 4

Meal 5

Meal 6

Meal 7

To finish every luscious meal off, fresh fruits in season such as melon, pineapple and sometimes banana, watermelon, mango and papaya is always provided.

If you would like to know whether Filipinos are happy with such meals? Well, the photos below could provide you with a clear answer. c“,)

For every smile of a happy and satisfied eater, there is a greater happiness and fulfillment being felt by the chef behind.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Engineers Hit the Kitchen

For expatriates struggling to survive the lonesomeness of working in a place far from love ones, cooking serves as a therapy. It offers ways to combat the feeling of solitude and sadness and it gives comfort and relief to a stressed body and mind. So wonder not if most of my colleagues in our construction project here in Sri Lanka have somehow developed knowledge or improved their skills in the kitchen. Under the circumstances, cooking is a worthwhile undertaking that could make one forget worries and loneliness and at the same time attain fulfillment upon creating the much sought Filipino foods we grew up with.

Alright, enough for the dramatic plot, let’s take a peek at the culinary skills of Engineers as they try their hands at food preparations. And allow me to do this by featuring some of their recent cookery as they apply the engineering knowledge in the most popular part of the dormitory – kitchen. We are in a construction site so please understand that the preparation may be rustic and too rough for some of you. :-) But I can assure you they are quite tasty and delicious.

Ok let’s start with “crispy pata” (crispy fried pork knuckle). This is one dish everyone loves; well for a group of predominantly hungry male this is expected. Though we seldom prepare this due to degree of difficulty, it’s always a knock-out every time we manage to do one, even if sometimes, we have to double fry. With the popular dipping sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar and minced onion, it’s a frontrunner. Just like the “lechon sa hurno” I made before, the crispy skin of this dish is fantastic.

And if the above dish is still insufficient to provide you with your needed dietary level of fat to boost your energy, here is another appetizing pork entrée which would complete the requirement, “chicharon” or pork skin cracklings. It’s truly yummy and mouth watering. With vinegar + garlic + ground pepper + chili + salt dipping sauce, this is awesome and gone in no time. :)

Then we have this outdoor prepared pork chop barbeque. Who wouldn’t be excited with this? Just like what I said on the pork barbeque post before, there is something in barbeque that stimulates one’s appetite by the sheer smell of its aroma while grilling. The same dipping sauce for the “crispy pata” above is great for this dish though it’s already superb on its own.

You’re probably asking where is the adobo, the most popular Filipino dish made famous by Filipino groups abroad. Well we have one special adobo for today, chicken liver and gizzard. A rich and extra tasty adobo lethal on rice and yes, drinks too.

To balance the diet though, we also have some fresh vegetable salad. And its one healthy salad – made from “ampalaya” or bitter melon, some chopped onion and tomato plus light vinegar and seasonings. Surprisingly good.

And finally, to complement the above dishes, sliced oranges are just ideal to provide the little sweetness at the end of the sumptuous meal.

There it is! A sneak preview on what the Engineer’s in our company can prepare in the kitchen during special Sunday meal. With such additional kitchen prowess, we know they could make a better husband back home.

To take a look at the Engineers responsible for the foods mentioned in this post, click here and here. c“,)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting Bored with Long Hair

It’s typical. Yes, getting bored with long hair is a pretty normal thing for women. There are millions of women out there who experienced the same tiring feeling at least once in their lifetime and millions more are bound to experience it sooner or later. But while such boredom commonly occurs and should be understood, women should remember that there are more people who prefer women with long hair. Or simply, there are more people finding women more beautiful with it. I am one of them. I believe that long hair is truly feminine and it makes a woman complete. But this doesn’t mean I am not cool with short hair. My wife and daughter for ones also cut their hair short once or twice, when boredom hit them. And I understood……..OK, let’s change that……..I tried to understand. :-)

Charlie Chaplin once said that “Hair is vitally personal to children. They weep vigorouslywhen it is cut for the first time; no matter how it grows, bushy, straight or curly; they feel they are being shorn of a part of their personality." I share the same thought, that’s why I got shocked to learn that my niece, Cham, cut her long hair by herself in an apparent attempt to change the way it looks. I don’t know for sure whether it is out of boredom or just plain childlike behavior trying to mimic some personality she saw on television.

So after playing the role of a hairstylist by herself, she was even proud and excited to show her hairdo creation to everyone.

Well, it’s not good to encourage such action but from the looks of it, all we can say is……..not bad……….not bad at all.

But such deed, though it may have resulted to a sleek and chic unorthodox cut, might send a wrong signal to the child and her playmates (and my wife and daughter too) if tolerated, so she should be brought to a real hairstylist for a corrective touch.

The stylist is just glad that Cham cut her bangs at the right length, enough to enable him to re-create the Uma Thurman look in Pulp Fiction.

Cham, even at an early age, has been known for being so playful and mischievous. At the terrible age of 5, she has gained more tricks to astonish everyone and elicit amusement to her willing and unwilling audience. Her naive naughtiness and unending sense of humor have become her signature behaviors which are always looked forward during family occasions.

It’s in the blood. It’s certain. An apple could only come from an apple. :-)

But she’s not always like that. Just like all other kids her age, she sure has her own quiet moments………..when she prefers a peaceful environment…………an absolute silence ……….not even a soothing lullaby……….and the family has peace of mind.

During such times, her parents can finally find tranquility, serenity and complete rest. Even for just a moment……….until the self-proclaimed Hairstylist awakens……..and decides whose hair to cut next. c“,)


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